ILOILO City – Iloilo City Councilor and Chair on Committee on Police, Fire, Penology, Public Safety, Order & Security Atty. Joshua C. Alim was surprised to know that members of the Philippine Army are in the city to conduct civil military operations such as medical missions, clean-up drives and anti-drug clearing exercises among others.
“I got a text yesterday about it but I don’t know what to say because I have no information yet,” he said during a discussion with the militant group BAYAN-Panay yesterday.
The group approached the office of the councilor after not being able to talk directly with the Mayor regarding the deployment of the Community Peace and Development Team of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CPDT-AFP) in 22 barangays in Iloilo City.
“These 22 barangays consist of our organizations from urban poor, workers, youth and students, women and fisherfolks. There are already troops of 10 stationing at the chapel of Brgy. San Antonio, Molo and they are conducting house-to-house survey asking what group the people are in. In Leganes town, a 10-hectare supplies and artillery camp of the 3rd Infantry Division of the AFP is also being put up,” the group said in their position paper.
These barangays are San Isidro, Bitoon, Democracia, Tabuc Suba, Tacas and Sambag, and Dungon A and B in Jaro; Punong, Progreso, Sinikway, Lapuz Norte in Lapuz; Bonifacio, Santo Nino Norte, Sooc and Calaparan in Arevalo; San Pedro, North Baluarte, San Antonio, and Calumpang in Molo, Ingore in Lapaz and Calahunan in Mandurriao.
“This is very alarming. This kind of operation is surely intended to suppress and intimidate the people’s legitimate struggle. The deployment of the AFP troops in barangays where there are strong mass movement is a clear violation of the people’s “freedom of assembly and expression” guaranteed by the 1987 constitution. This is also in violation of the Republic Act 7610 where children should be put away from harm of any armed conflict and armed groups are not supposed to stay in civilian or public spaces such as schools, churches and barangay halls,” they continued.
The deployment of the troops is also part of the preparations for the APEC Ministerial Meetings September this year here in the city according to the militant group based on dialogues they have had with local barangay officials.
“But the city is insurgent-free. This was even the recommendation of the AFP during our last meeting at the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC). So what are they doing here? They did not even inform us of such activities,” Alim said to the group.
“This kind of operation is but a part of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino regime. Under the Oplan Bayanihan, legitimate and legal mass movements are targets as well and labeled as fronts of the communists rebel groups,” BAYAN Panay chairperson Hope Hervilla said.
“We urge the city council and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog to act accordingly on this matter before any untoward incidents may happen. The deployment, which is an indication of the continued violation of our civil and political rights by the US-Aquino regime, must be stopped and the troops must be pulled out from the city immediately,” Hervilla added.